Mayor vetos committee nomination bill

Re-vote on nomination bill postponed until next month

Pat Fribis

Pat Fribis

By Lucas Irizarry, Staff Reporter

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen saw a rare mayoral veto of a committee nomination ordinance Aug. 9.

The ordinance allows the mayor and aldermen to nominate members to city committees — currently only the mayor has that authority. It applies to all committees except parks and rec and planning.

The board voted 5-3 to approve the ordinance with Ward 2 Alderman Christine Lieber, Ward 3 Aldermen Cathy Friedmann and Randy Epperson and Ward 4 Aldermen Lindsay Hof and Fred Daues voting for the ordinance, and Ward 1 Aldermen Brian Fernandez and Ann McMunn and Ward 2 Alderman Casey Wong voting against.

The vote prompted Mayor Pat Fribis to use her mayoral veto against the ordinance, returning the bill to the board with written objections. 

“Bill 13 is a proposed ordinance designed in part to undo the last election for mayor of Sunset Hills. The voting residents elected one mayor to be their mayor between the two candidates,” Fribis said, reading her objections aloud. “The proposed ordinance seeks to change the purposeful outcome of the election achieved by a majority of the voting residents by taking powers from a duly elected mayor and giving them to the board.”

Fribis’ statement went on to reference the checks and balances that are placed within American government and a “proverbial slippery slope towards … the consequences of authoritarianism.”

Daues was the first to respond to the mayor’s veto. Daues said he does not take the change lightly, but he believes the city would function best with the “most amount of residents having the opportunity to serve the city.”

“Our commissions as a litmus test of who supported who, although it seems to be our tradition, to me does not pass the test of equal opportunity,” Daues said. “With a contest for mayor decided 55 (percent) to 45 (percent), should the 45 percent be denied the opportunity to serve or, even worse, be removed? This vote is not anything but trying to offer the most amount of residents opportunities to serve.”

Epperson also referenced the mayor’s past comments about not wanting to pick non-supporters for commissions. He said aldermen have talked to Fribis since the July meeting and “reached agreements” about potential nominees, but there was no list prepared for this meeting. He said the lack of ability to fill some of these vacancies is a continuous issue and why the board passed the measure.

Wong, one of the ordinance’s nay-sayers, said it’s important the mayor solely have this power for the sake of checks and balances. He said the appointments and government in general are not a meritocracy, so he doesn’t fault Fribis for her comments about the nominations.

“I think we’re deluding ourselves if we think these appointments should be merit-based,” Wong said. “American democracy is largely an educated popularity contest. It was an awesome contest between two worthy candidates. I think there have been a lot of unjust political jabs taken at the mayor because of the remaining appointments.”

McMunn, one of the aldermen who met with the mayor regarding new appointments, said she was disappointed to not see a list of appointments at the meeting, and she “wasn’t sure she was given the honest information” regarding some of them.

“I’m really torn on this. I believe in checks and balances, I believe in following procedure and we really haven’t followed procedures,” McMunn said.

McMunn requested the re-vote — which requires six yes votes — be postponed until the next meeting. The board voted to hold the vote until September, giving proponents time to attempt to turn one vote.